So before we delve into creating the tutorial and adding new stuff we thought it prudent to get rid of the prototype UI elements and really look at how we interact with the game to make things a little more involving and intuitive.
As you can no doubt immediately see, a number of things stand to change in Update 6 as we sweep the prototype user interface under the table and replace it with something altogether a little more mature.
Spatial User Interface (Battlegrid)
Some of the feedback coming from you guys mention that the Overhaul doesn’t yet fully capture the majesty of space. After breaking the scene down into its abstract parts and questioning them we found that the grid and border around the game edge made the maps (or Zones) feel a little claustrophic. What’s more, when polled, 70% of you hinted that we should explore an alternative to the grid based reference plane.
Your wish is our command.
Previously the levels were pizza box shaped; now we’ve changed them to a cylinder shape. Not only does this feel more fitting when combined with the radial camera, it gives us an better sense of scale and to us, feels a little more natural. The proof of the pudding will be in the eating and we look forward to feedback on that.
2D User Interface
The fleet panel (top left) has been condensed reducing the full width faction logo icons which looked a little dodgy at resolutions below 2K. Unfortunately we couldn’t keep all the large hologram fleet icons on screen at the same time because it lead to scrolling, but clicking on the smaller tactical icons and Soft Group icons will correctly filter the lists.
We have removed the health bars on the fleet icons and made the hologram image of the ship itself the health bar. Quite a bizarre little tweak but it’s surprising just how much it assists us when looking for damage status and as a bonus it’s more aesthetically appealing.
The situation panel (top right) has also been reworked.
Previously we had square Zone icons with numbers that made the thing look a little like a bingo calling card, now we’ve replaced them with pictorial representations of the contents of a Zone. If a Zone is dark, it’s still listed making it much easier to track changes as you and you allies chart space. It also makes more sense as this is known space – so really as a Commander you would know how to get there just not necessarily what awaits you…
Otherwise we’ve tweaked the fonts, position of the elements and how they react when you use them to give the whole thing a more polished feel.
Update 6 will see some cosmetic dressing to the Zone map with large amounts of work going on under the hood to prepare for additional planets. Again the Zone icons have been replaced with images, all Zones are now shown and an orbit line added for the example Planet Ares around the systems Sun.
It’s important to note that the Zone map looks cluttered because we’ve added a larger number of Zones to a single planet than we might normally. As we add additional planets we can expect to spread things out a bit visually.
Lessons from the old Alpha
We put a lot of work into that old Alpha and in the transition it’s possible that we might have forgotten about some of the advancements it offered us. (Remember you can still access the old Alpha using the BETA tab in the game properties.)
Some more feedback indicates that the dedicated Hangar from the old alpha is quite sorely missed. We’re happy to report once the tutorial has been completed and we've switched on a few more key mechanics we’ll be bringing that back. We’ve also resurrected the original menu screen showcasing the newest ships as we were missing it!
That’s not all
Throughout the duration of Update 6 we’ll really be addressing the user experience (UX). The tutorial is quite a common request now but that actually tells us that things aren’t quite as obvious or intuitive as they need to be. An example of this will be the inclusion of a small contextual menu when you click on a Ship or Space Object. This will allow you to quickly access actions such as Open Comms or Attack, perhaps hide in a Space Object without having to mess about with context targets or the ability bar.
We’ll also be looking at the Zone and Space Object tooltips – do they really tell us what we need to know? What’s more, we have 5 new ships about to land including fixed weapon attack Cruisers and pirate ‘aberrate’ variants and we’ll also be adding in some random encounters.
Update 6 is just being polished off and should land in the next few days. We hope this demonstrates how quickly things are moving now as we continue the process of adding and refining, and we hope you join us in our excitement as we continue cramming this thing full of win!
As always, thanks for the continued support and if you have any feedback please hit the forums or even the comments below – you should know by now that we are very good listeners!